Indie Filmmaking: Ways to Secure Your Budget

You have a brilliant script and a team of fellow filmmakers willing to follow you off into the low-budget sunset, if only there was one. Once you’ve actually figured out what the budget is to get the film made, you can move on to securing the financing.

Identifying your market and making sure your script actually has commercial appeal are your first steps to getting some money behind your project. Making a movie is like starting any business, you need a business plan to show how the money will be spent and how you’ll make the initial investment back.

1. Do it Yourself

You can scrimp and save but let’s be honest, even with the lowest budget possible you’re looking at needing a minimum of $10,000 and you want to make your movie right now! You may not have enough cash in your account but you can always finance your film with a few credit cards. 

Kevin Smith maxed out his credit cards to make his first film “Clerks”. Of course in his case, his first movie became a classic and now he’s… well he’s Kevin Smith! Robert Rodriguez literally became a guinea pig to finance one of his movies. He was paid to take experimental drugs in a science lab. So the question is, how much do you love your film, enough to go into debt? Enough to donate your body to science and possibly sprout new limbs? No? I didn’t think so, read on.

2. Get Private Investors

Yes mom and dad count but unless your family is wealthy, you’ll still need more people to invest. Think about the people you know. Think about the doctors, lawyers or local business owners that would love to be involved in something creative. Go to them with your idea and get them involved. They’d get "Executive Producer" credits and a pre-agreed upon percentage of your profits would go to them. 

3. Crowd Funding

This is similar to number 2 except this is open to the public and you don’t have to pay them back. You can offer gifts instead. Things like movie posters, autographs a “special thanks” in the credits, you get the picture.  There’s no limit to how many people can donate and the donations are usually in smaller amounts. Websites like Kickstarter are the platforms that allow you to accomplish this. Sign up, make your project its very own page and spread the word.

4. Apply For Grants

There are government and private grant programs dedicated to the arts that your project may qualify for. You'll probably have to fill out mountains of paperwork, send in a portion of your script and possibly submit a personal essay (about your hopes, dreams, goals, etc.). Film put together a list of a few different programs. Do a little digging online, you may find one that screams your name. 

5. Product Placement

This is literally exactly what it sounds like, the placement of products. Placed where you ask? In your movie of course, in exchange for cash. Your lead character would be drinking their beer or riding around on their company's newest scooter or car. In the minds of business managers, your film is basically a flashy, moving billboard that has the potential to reach a far larger audience than an actual billboard would. 

6. Deferred Payments

If you’re lucky enough to have a crew that believes in your project’s future success as much as you do, you can save yourself some money upfront by offering them deferred or half deferred payment. Pay them what you can now (even if that's nothing) and give them the rest when your film starts bringing in its own money.

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You’re probably going to have to use a combination of all these ideas to get enough for your film and even then you may still come up short. Taking out a small loan from your bank may also be a viable option for you.  First, revisit your budget. Make sure you’re only spending what you absolutely have to, larger films with larger budgets than yours have stopped mid-production because they were needlessly hemorrhaging money. You don’t want that to happen to you. Plan responsibly and stick to the plan.